SHE`S HAVING A LAUGH..
It was in May 2009 that this country`s first female Muslim peer, Baroness Uddin, was exposed as being the biggest expenses cheat among a host of fiddling MPs and peers. It was subsequently established that she had cheated the taxpayer out of £125,000 by claiming that a tiny flat in downtown Maidstone was her designated main residence, although there was little evidence that she had ever visited there. This enabled her to claim £147 a night whilst all the time she was living in her Housing Association family home in Wapping, paying a heavily subsidised rent of £104 a week.
The upshot was that she was found guilty, banned from the House of Lords until April next year and ordered to repay the aforementioned £125,000. Now despite owning three properties with her husband she is claiming not to be able to repay the money and it seems the Lords authorities have no power to prevent her resuming her seat in the Lords at the end of her suspension.
A ruling by the committee for privileges and conduct in the Lords reckons it would be illegal to require her to repay the £125,000 as a condition of returning to the House and the committee is concerned that such a condition would amount to a permanent ban which would infringe her right as a peer to be called to the House at the start of a parliament. My reaction is - so what?
But there`s more. There is now the prospect that the Baroness might use her tax free daily allowance of £300 to repay her debt. If so, and if she assiduously turns up at the Lords and claims her daily allowance, then theoretically she could repay the outstanding amount in about three years. If that happens, then the most ludicrous and unacceptable situation of all in this sorry case would be that the taxpayers would be paying her daily allowance so that she could repay the taxpayers what she owes them.
Here`s a thought. Issue her with a statutory demand for repayment and if she doesn’t sell one of her three properties to repay the £125,000 she owes, then apply for her to be declared bankrupt. After that, apply for a restriction order. As a result, she will automatically be ineligible to sit in the House of Lords. Simples.
But frankly, something really ought to be done to stop the self-serving Uddins of this world from being allowed to get away with stunts like the one she has already pulled and the one she might yet pull off. Better still, make sure in future that people like her should never ever be allowed anywhere near Westminster to have a laugh at the taxpayers` expense.